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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Oct 05 2007 11:45am
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Whenever a new set comes out the first thing I look at are the new keywords in the set.  Keywords are usually my favorite part of the set, followed closely by five card cycles.  Most of the time, MaRo and friends use the new keywords as the anchors to build the functionality of the sets around.  The art, the flavor text, and the story gives you a setting to play in, but it is the keywords that actually alters the way you play the game with the release of each block.  With that in mind, my first article will take a look at the new keywords of Lorwyn and compare them to keywords from the past to see how they will play out.

Lorwyn gives us five new keywords:

  • Clash (Each clashing player reveals the top card of his or her library then puts that card on the top or bottom. A player wins if his or her card had a higher converted mana cost.)
  • Evoke (You may play this spell for its evoke cost. If you do, it's sacrificed when it comes into play.)
  • Changeling (This card is every creature type even if this card isn't in play.) 
  • Champion a "creature type" (When this comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another "creature type" you control from the game. When this leaves play, that card returns to play.) 
  • Hideaway (This land comes into play tapped. When it does, look at the top 4 cards of your library, remove one from the game face down, then put the rest on the bottom of your library.)

Lets take them one at a time.

Clash

Do you remember Psychic Battle from Invasion?  Yeah, I do not either.  But that is why we have Gatherer.  When I first saw clash, I thought, "This seems like a Blue mechanic."  And sure enough, with Psychic Battle we see that clash has seen print before.  Ok, so it was not exactly clash because there was no option to put the card on the bottom of your library, but the concept is there.  Existing as a single crap rare in a powerful multicolor block, our predecessor of clash doesn't really help us determine how this keyword will fit within the context of Lorwyn.

My first impression is one of skepticism.  This mechanic is the antithesis of consistency, and I do not believe the magnitudes of the effects are worth the resources it would take to constantly know the top of your library.  Lorwyn does not have a Sensei's Divining Top or the scry cards from Future Sight.  Since messing with the top of your library belongs in the Blue piece of the color pie, it's not surprising that the majority of cards that let you see and/or alter the top of your library in Lorwyn are also Blue.  If you're interested in clash, then you obviously want to be playing high mana cost cards.  In the tribal world of Lorwyn that means Treefolk and Giants.  But the two tribes supported in Blue are Merfolk and Faeries, which are both weenie tribes.

 

There, much better!
... or not?

For this reason, I think clash will be relegated to limited filler that sometimes lets you turn a mediocre card into a decent card.  Since you can put the revealed card on the bottom of your library, it also provides a means to smooth out your draws.  This role in the past has been filled by mechanics such as cycling and scry.  Clash is no cycling, not to mention your opponent also gets to dig through their library.  But the power to make every land drop is so important to tempo that this mechanic will see play in limited.  It also adds a fun level of interaction between players that I think was lacking in Time Spiral due to elements like the split second mechanic.  That said, I doubt this mechanic will see any play in block or standard.  The guys at Wizards keep claiming that the effects on clash cards are worth enough to build a deck around, so maybe we'll see something in standard with a combination of scry and clash in a mid-range kind of deck, but I just don't see it.   

Evoke

In his recent article, The Magnificence of Kicker,  Aaron Forsythe said:
"There is some merit to an argument that says kicker should just be a part of the game and used everywhere. The mechanic is simple, popular, and broadly applicable. But the truth is that we are okay slicing up what kicker does a little bit and giving pieces of it new names. We're not trying to do a sales job by saying that a subset of kicker is a new mechanic-we actually think it's beneficial for cards that behave similarly to have a unifying keyword unique to them as opposed to just lumping everything together under the "kicker" umbrella. By doing so, we keep the design focused, give the set some identity, and make talking about a subset of cards much easier."

So evoke is not a new mechanic, but instead its a subset of kicker with a new name focused on creatures with come into play effects.  If you do not pay the kicker, then you do not get the creature.  We got our first look at evoke from the first spoiled Lorwyn card, Shriekmaw.  You will only find evoke on Elemental creatures, just like you only found the soulshift ability on Spirits from the Kamigawa block.  We have seen these types of creatures before in the cycle of cards from Dissension that included Court Hussar.  With those guild aligned cards, you needed both colors of mana to keep the creature around.  But with evoke you just need more mana.  At this point in the article, I wanted to talk about Shriekmaw and how much better it was than Nekrataal, and how I thought it will be played all over the place in block and standard, but Mike Flores already did that when he previewed the card.  

See, same thing. They could have just reused kicker, but that's no fun.

So instead I'm going to talk about my second favorite evoke card, Briarhorn.  Evoke gives us options during game play, which we like.  In the case of Briarhorn, you get an expensive Giant Growth, or you get Giant Growth plus a flashy Nessian Courser.  If it did not have flash, Briarhorn would not be playable, because it would strictly be an offensive card.  But with flash, this card could allow you to get a 3 for 1.  If you are attacked by several creatures you can really shift the combat phase in your favor by playing Briarhorn to pump one of your own guys and then leave a 3/3 blocker they hadn't counted on.  Both Briarhorn and Gilt-Leaf Ambush give Green some nice combat tricks against other creature based decks, which there should be in a tribal set.

Even if you only pay the evoke cost on these guys, they do come into play which allows you to pull a lot of other tricks.  You could sacrifice it to a Nantuko Husk, or bounce it right back to your hand with a Whitemane Lion,  sacrifice Saffi Eriksdotter to bring it back to play, or flicker it with Momentary Blink as suggested by Frank Karsten when he previewed another evoke card: Cloudthresher

Now Cloudthresher, this thing makes me wonder how relevant the evoke mechanic will be on a lot of these cards.  Will you ever cast Cloudthresher for its evoke cost?  For four mana you get an instant Hurricane set on two, but for an extra two green mana you also get a flashy 7/7 beat stick with reach.  I do not know about you, but I am gonna hold out for the extra GG.  In order to entice people to use the evoke ability Wizards has to make the evoke cost cheap enough that you will actually play it.  In this respect, its just like kicker.  MaRo has mentioned several times that he won a lot more games in their FFL testing when he played Kavu Titan on turn two, instead of waiting for the five mana to pay the kicker.  I think Shriekmaw and Bramble Horns will both see play because of their cheap evoke costs. This gives you the most flexibility and flexibility gives a card the best chance to be useful in any given situation.  Kicker cards were played for their versatility, and evoke cards will see play for the same reason. 

Changeling

Um... so every shapeshifter is the set has the same ability as Mistform Ultimus, and that ability gets a keyword in Lorwyn.

BORRRR....IIIING

I usually like it when Wizards keywords these kinds of things.  I thought vigilance was way over due.  Same with reach and shroud.  I did not even mind deathtouch.  But I do not know about this one.  Yes Lorwyn has a tribal theme, and yes changeling will really help out in limited play, I just do not like the sheer amount of creatures in the set that have this ability (nineteen).  And these cards will not see play outside of limited, unless they have some kind of other crazy ability that has nothing to do with changeling itself.

Now, do not forget that all your changelings can be Threatened by Goatnapper, so watch out!

Mistform Ultimus

After that whole Grand Creature Type Update thing, I don't know what he is anymore.

Champion

The champion keyword reminds me a lot of the Patron cycle from Betrayers of Kamigawa.

 

The Patrons were fun and powerful, but far too pricey to see a lot of play.  You could reduce the mana cost of your favorite Patron by sacrificing a creature of the relevant type and then paying the difference in costs.  The problem with offering was the inherent card disadvantage.  If you offered a Sosuke, Son of Seshiro to your Patron of the Orochi, then when they eliminated the Patron you lost both the Patron and Sosuke, giving your opponent a nice two for one.

Champion is the new and improved version of offering.  Just like with offering, champion interacts with a specific creature type.  But the huge improvement with champion over offering is the fact that you get the creature back when your champ leaves play.   Now there is a cycle of shapeshifters that say "champion a creature," so they will work with any creature.  I do not find them all that interesting.  What I am really excited about are these aggressively costed guys like Thoughtweft Trio and Wren's Run Packmaster.  These guys seem like a lot of fun and I think they will see a lot of play.  This mechanic, more than any other in the set, provides the most synergy with the tribal theme in Lorwyn.  And speaking of tribal, you can also remove a non-creature tribal permanent to satisfy the champion clause.  I always liked the Patrons from BoK, I just thought they were executed improperly.  I think champion is spot on.  Champion is, by far, my favorite new mechanic of the set.  I just wish evoke were on more creature types because of the great interactions it would have with champion.

A 5/5 for four with three extra abilities?  Yes, please!

Hideaway

Hideaway adds to the list of rare five-card cycles that function off of wacky game states.

That list includes:

... the Avatars from Prophecy
Avatar of Might
Mortal Combat
... the Alternative Win Conditions from Odyssey Block
... and the Flip cards from Kamigawa
Jushi Apprentice

Hideaway is an incredibly conditional keyword.  It allows you to play a spell for one mana, BUT only if the spell was less than four cards from the top of your library when the land originally came into play, and then ONLY if a certain game state occurs, such as if an opponent was dealt seven or more damage this turn.  Hideaway has some nice interactions with clash, since clash also cares about the top of your library.  But just like clash, hideaway feels like it will take too much effort to be consistently worth the effort.  And beyond that, hideaway just feels like a "win more" mechanic. A Bogardan Hellkite or Akroma, Angel of Wrath for two is sweet, but if you already dealt seven damage this turn then most of the time you are already in a good game state.

However, what I find most interesting about hideaway is the fact that it simple reads "Hideaway," and NOT "Hideaway 4."  Ripple cards, like Surging Flame from Coldsnap say "Ripple 4," which lets Wizards change the number in the future if they ever decide to bring this mechanic back.  The fact that they set the number on hideaway to four, and only four tells me that R&D thinks this is a very narrow mechanic with little room for further exploration.  Which makes me ask, why bother in the first place?

So, what do you think?

Overall, I believe a majority of the new keywords in Lorwyn are rather weak, the two exceptions being Evoke and Champion.  Ultimately, they will all be overshadowed by the two new card types; Planeswalker and Tribal.  But enough of what I think.  What do you guys think of the new Lorwyn keywords?  Do you agree with my comparisons to the older mechanics?  Post a comment, let me know. 

0 Comments

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 75.187.39.19 (not verified) at Sun, 10/07/2007 - 13:05
Anonymous (Unregistered) 75.187.39.19's picture

CHANGILING!!!

Champion by bubbakush at Mon, 10/08/2007 - 06:43
bubbakush's picture

  I liked your article. The two creatures you mention with champion seems to me to be pimped out versions of Faceless Butchers, for the same costs,I mean yes you have to remove your own creature but how many times have you used the Butcher just to have your opponent Wrath or Damnation and they have a creature. I think they will be fun to play.

by hamtastic at Sat, 10/06/2007 - 18:54
hamtastic's picture

My biggest 'huh?' moment is that they duplicated the mistake they admitted to about Threshhold.  They've said that if they could go back and do it again they'd make it say "Threshhold 7" so that there could be other Threshhold triggers like threshhold 30, or whatnot.  But then they make another keyword that has a number built into it instead of Hideway 4.

If they put the number in there they could play around more with balance, like the make the 7 damage card dig deeper since that's a pretty hefty requirement.

Good article though!  Keep up the good work! :)

~Erik

Not bad by tempesteye at Sat, 10/06/2007 - 09:53
tempesteye's picture

Article was good but I think your assessment of Changling was off. It will see play in may casual tribal decks that are looking to make some of the under represented tribes a little more consistant.

Since Changeling is available in every color, and in non-creature Tribal cards as well, you should expect to see in in quite a few classic based tribes.

Sweep by iceage4life at Sat, 10/06/2007 - 14:58
iceage4life's picture

Not really because Sweep is possibly the weakest mechanic ever on the weakest cards.  Hideaway is kinda meh but seems much more playable.

 Also we miught see more in Morning Tide etc. 

hideaway by hurriboy at Sat, 10/06/2007 - 10:30
hurriboy's picture

is it just me or does hideaway remind anyone of "sweep". a keyword they said was a mistake cause its only on a couple cards and shouldnt have been keyworded? changelings seem cool for Lorwyn block, but between them and the creature type makeover tribal loses alot of its fun IMO.

Running Out of Ideas... by MechtaK (Unregistered) 69.149.155.222 (not verified) at Sat, 10/06/2007 - 01:57
MechtaK (Unregistered) 69.149.155.222's picture

Yeah, that is my take on WotC, they just have spurts of idea drought that make for really strange mechanics at times.  My opinion is, keywords should encompass a broad generalization of an ability that any creature could have, and fills a game niche.  But we know what opinions are like... heh

In any case, nice article, well worth the read.

Champion does have a closer precedent... by AJ_Impy at Fri, 10/05/2007 - 13:07
AJ_Impy's picture

Good article. On Champion, however, the closest parallel is not Offering but Wormfang Drake, of the Judgement line of red and blue Nightmares that gave you a cheap creature for the cost of losing a resource. Wormfang Darke could read Champion a Creature, Flying as its sole rules text.